Dinners in the colder months in my kitchen tend to be rooted in heft and imbued with spices that aspire to transport– preferably to somewhere warmer. A tagine is historically a Berber dish from North Africa that is named after the special earthenware pot in which it is cooked. The traditional method of cooking with a tagine is to place the it over large bricks of charcoal purchased specifically for their ability to stay hot for hours.
I drew from tradition in this dish, using a regular dutch oven to prepare it. Even if we don’t own the same utensils, it is when we remember the source of the cooking rituals that a dish comes alive and truly nourishes us. When the spices fill your space as the broth bubbles on the stove and the fragrant herbs overflow on your counter, what your doing in the kitchen starts to matter. Food becomes the the fire that melts the ice both outside and in. Gathering at the table sustains the flame. While the precious little light outside looks in at an oblong angle, our focus too can become blurred. I like to use meals like this as a way to appreciate the softened edges, to bask in the dim glow and to replenish the force inside that raises the masts every day from dark morning to dark night and gives us the will to keep sailing outside no matter what the storms weather brings.
A little parsley, a little cilantro, rich spices, dried fruit and salmon go a long way when you need them to. In under 30 minutes, this is a weeknight keeper to bring out whenever the spirit needs a little lifting or when you want to add an element of strength from history to your daily sustenance.
- 2 teaspoons chermoula spice blend (If you don’t have chermoula, you can make your own paste by combining 2 cloves garlic, crushed, 2 tsp ground cumin, 2 tsp ground coriander, 1 tsp chili flakes 1 tsp smoked paprika, 2 tbsps lemon juice, 1/4 cup olive oil)
- 1/4 cup parsley
- 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro
- 3 garlic cloves
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar (or white)
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 lb salmon
- 1 cup couscous or white quinoa
- 2 cups water
- 1 red onion, cut into 8ths
- 2 carrots, diced
- 1 cup chicken or vegetable stock
- 1 can diced tomatoes
- 1 sweet potato, in 1 inch cubes
- handful of dried cranberries, currants or raisins
Into the body of a food processor place chermoula spice blend, parsley, cilantro (leave a little for the garnish), garlic, vinegar and 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and blend until smooth. Remove the skin of the salmon and cut the fish into bite sized pieces. Place in a bowl. Add the chermoula to the fish and coat well. Set aside to marinate.
If using couscous: Place the couscous in a bowl. Boil the water, pour over the couscous, stir with a fork and then throw in the dried fruit, cover the bowl and leave to sit for 5 minutes.
If using quinoa: Boil the water, add quinoa and reduce to a simmer. Let simmer until the water is absorbed, about 10 minutes. The grains will start to “sprout” forming a white ring around the center of each. When the water is mostly absorbed, lower the flame, throw the dried fruit in and cover.
Divide the couscous or quinoa between bowls and spoon the tagine over the top. Garnish with cilantro and parsley.